Saturday, April 9, 2005

MH - The Will of the Pope

First off, sorry we've been silent for the last few days. Circumstances beyond one's control, you might say. And tonight I don't have too much time either, but I didn't want you to think you'd been deserted...

Much has been written about the Pope's funeral yesterday, and I don't see the need to add much more to it, especially since I have nothing particularly original to add. Judie made the comment (which was later echoed by one of the CNN correspondents) that it seemed so strange to have this huge event at the Vatican and not to have John Paul there. He was present, of course, but in a different, transcendent way.

It was an overwhelming experience, particularly the "Santo, Santo!" chants. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like it, and I doubt that anyone who saw it will ever forget it. I thought Cardinal Ratzinger's homily was supurb - exactly what a funeral homily should be (see this previous post on the problem with funeral orations). (Of course, I don't usually approve of sanctifying the deceased, but in this case I think we can make an exception...) As I listened I thought of a couple items I might want to consider at a future date, so we'll see. And I don't see how anyone could fail to be moved by the finale, the good-bye from the huge crowd to the Pope as his coffin was turned to face them for the last time, the bells tolling, the flags waving, people sharing one last moment with him. Were there many dry eyes out there?

But one thing I do want to discuss is the speculation, leaped upon by the MSM, that John Paul's will suggests he had at one time considered resignation. The section in question:

As the Jubilee Year progressed, day by day the 20th century closes behind us and the 21st century opens. According to the plans of Divine Providence I was allowed to live in the difficult century that is retreating into the past, and now, in the year in which my life reaches 80 years (octogesima adveniens), it is time to ask oneself if it is not the time to repeat with the biblical Simeon, Nunc Dimittis.

The reference is to the Canticle of Simeon, the prophet who had been promised that he would not be allowed to die before having seen the Christ. Upon meeting the baby Jesus following the Presentation, Simeon says "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel." (Luke 2:29-32) George Weigel also references this Canticle in talking about the Pope at the time of the Jubilee.

My take on this is that the Pope, in quoting Simeon, is essentially saying, "Having reached the Jubilee, as I had desired for so long, there must be a temptation to feel like Simeon, to call it a day. And yet how can I, when there is so much to do, so much to be accomplished? Indeed, my greatest work may yet be ahead."

You can read a very good commentary on this from Phil Lawler at Catholic World News, who wonders the same thing:
Now, with the celebration of the Jubilee well underway, the Pope allows himself to wonder whether he has completed his primary mission.

But does that mean he considered resignation? Or did he think that, with his main work as Pontiff completed, he could now expect God to call him home-- and even pray for that release? Again, the text allows either interpretation.

Lawler concludes that the Pope did not consider resignation, regardless of how ambiguous the comments could appear. He stresses that the Pope's public comments subsequent to these written ones (which were apparently made in March 2000) indicate he "was determined to serve as Roman Pontiff for as long as he lived." A very, very good observation is made by in a comment to Lawler's post:
I definately read the Pope's resignation in these words. Resignation - total and complete - to Our Lord's Will. I can't imagine where anyone who knew John Paul could actually read that he was contemplating resigning as Pope from these words.

And I feel the same way. So keep this in mind, though I think many of you already have figured this out - just because you see or hear it in the MSM, that doesn't make it true. Especially when you're dealing with people who are, shall we say, a little out of their element. That doesn't make them bad or malicious - after all, you wouldn't want to ask me for an opinion on what's wrong with your car. It also doesn't mean that there is an elitist clique out there who has the answers to everything. But it does mean that knowledge is power, and the best way to understand what's going on out there is to educate yourself, as much as possible.

Plenty of other good stuff to come, and for the Hadleybloggers out there who've sent us material to use - we'll get to it! Check us out Monday for sure!

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